John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, the
youngest person ever to be elected President, the first Roman Catholic and the
first to be born in the 20th century.Kennedy was assassinated before he completed his third year as President,
therefore his achievements were limited.Nevertheless, his influence was worldwide, and his handling of the Cuban
Missile Crisis may have prevented the United States from entering into another
world war.Kennedy was especially admired by the younger people and he was perhaps
the most popular president in history.Kennedy expressed the values of 20th century America and his presidency
had an importance beyond its political achievements.John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts where he was
one of nine children.The Kennedy family was very wealthy and providedmeans for the Kennedy children to pursue whatever they chose and John F.
Kennedy chose politics.
F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1942 and as a new member Kennedy supported
legislation that would serve the interests of his elements.Kennedy usually backed bills sponsored by his party but would sometimes
show independence by voting with the Republicans.He also joined with the Republicans in criticizing the Truman
administration’s handling of China.In China, the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek, which had been
supported by the United States, was unable to withstand the advance of Communist
forces under Mao Zedong.By the end of 1949 government troops had been overwhelmingly defeated,
and Chiang led his forces into exile on Taiwan.The triumphant Mao formed the People’s Republic of China.Truman’s critics, including Kennedy, charged that the administration
had failed to support Chiang Kai-shek againstthe Communists.
Kennedy’s wavering within his own party platform, John F. Kennedy easily won
reelection to Congress in 1948 and 1950.In 1952 he decided to run against functioning Republican Senator Henry
Cabot Lodge, Jr.Kennedy was little known outside his congressional district therefore he
began his campaign two years before the election, meeting with hundreds of
thousands of people in Massachusetts."Kennedy defeated Lodge by 70,000"1 votes despite the fact that
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Presidential candidate, carried the state
by just over 200,000 votes.
a candidate for the Senate, Kennedy promised the voters that he would do more
for Massachusetts than Lodge had ever done.During his first two years as senator he backed legislation beneficial to
the Massachusetts textile, fishing, watch, and transportation industries.In 1953, however, he defied regional interests and supported the Saint
Lawrence Seaway project and later in 1955 he was the only New England senator to
support renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act that gave the President
the power to lower U. S. tariffs, or taxes on import goods, in exchange for
similar concessions from other countries.
In 1957 Kennedy became a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, and he later won a place on the Senate Committee on Improper
Activities in the Labor Management Field.In 1958 he spent many of his weekends campaigning for reelection in
Massachusetts senatorial contest.Kennedy wanted the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and almost as
soon as the 1956 election was over, he began working toward it.
announced his candidacy early in 1960 and by the time the Democratic National
Convention opened in July, he had won seven primary victories.When the convention opened, it appeared that Kennedy’s only serious
challenge for the nomination would come from the Senate majority leader, Lyndon
B. Johnson of Texas.However, Johnson was strong only among Southern delegates and Kennedy won
the nomination on the first ballot and then persuaded Johnson to become his
weeks later the Republicans nominated Vice President Richard Nixon for president
and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., for vice president.In the fast-paced campaign that followed, Kennedy made stops in 46 states
and 273 cities and towns, while Nixon visited every state and 170 urban areas.The two candidates faced each other in four nationally televised debates.Kennedy’s manner, especially in the first debate, seemed to eliminate
the charge that he was too young and inexperienced to serve as president, and
many believe these debates gave Kennedy the edge he needed for victory.
election drew a record 69 million voters to the polls, but Kennedy won by only
113,000 votes which made it the closest popular vote in 72 years.Because Kennedy won most of the larger states in the Northeastern United
States, he received 303 electoral votes to Nixon’s 219.Kennedy was inaugurated on January 20, 1961.In his inaugural address he emphasized America’s revolutionary
heritage,"The same beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue
around the globe,"2 Kennedy said."Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe
alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generations of Americans."3Kennedy called for "a new world of law, where the strong are just
and the weak secure and the peace preserved."
first year in office brought him considerable success in enacting new
legislation.Congress passed a major housing bill, a law increasing minimum wage, and
a bill granting federal aid to economically depressed areas of the United
States.Kennedy put legislation through Congress which was a bill creating the
Peace Corps, an agency that trained American volunteers to perform social and
humanitarian service oversees and promote world peace, which was important at
the time because of unsettling foreign affairs.
1959, after several attempts, a revolution led by Fidel Castro finally overthrew
the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar.During the next two years, Castro would become increasingly hostile to
the United States.When Castro began to proclaim his belief in Communism, Cuba became part
of the Cold War, or struggle between the U. S. and its allies and the nations
led by the USSR that involved intense economic and diplomatic battles.
Cubans began to flee to the United States and during the Eisenhower
administration the CIA had begun to train Cuban exiles secretly for an invasion
of Cuba.In April 1961 more than "1000 Cuban exiles made an amphibious
landing"5 in Cuba at a place called the Bay of Pigs.Their plan was to move inland and join with anti-Castro forces to stage a
revolt simultaneously, but instead Castro’s forces were there to meet the
invaders.The revolt in the interior did not materialize, and air support, promised
by the CIA, never came.The exiles were defeated and the survivors were taken prisoner.Castro began to demand money for their release but Kennedy refused to
negotiate with Castro.Kennedy did take steps to encourage both businesses and private citizens
to reach an agreement with Castro and to contribute to the ransom.On December 25, 1962, "1113 prisoners were released in exchange for
food and medical supplies valued at a total of approximately $53 million.
June 3, 1961, in Vienna, Austria, Kennedy and USSR leader Nikata Khrushchev met
and reviewed relationships between the U. S. and the USSR, as well as other
questions of interest to the two states.Two incidents contributed to hostility at the meeting, first being the
shooting down of a U. S. spy plane in Soviet air space, and the second was the
failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in early 1961.The results of the conference made it clear that Khrushchev had construed
Kennedy’s failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion as a sign of weakness.No agreements were reached on any important issues and the Soviet premier
made it clear that the Soviet Union untended to pursue an even more aggressive
policy toward the United States.
other problems President Kennedy faced, none was more serious than the Cuban
Missile Crisis.In 1960 Soviet Premier Khrushchev supplied Cuba with nuclear missiles
that would put the eastern United States within range of nuclear missile attack.During the summer of 1962 U. S. spy planes flying over Cuba photographed
Soviet-managed construction work and spotted the first missile on October 14.For seven days Kennedy consulted with advisors, discussing the possible
responses.On October 22, Kennedy told the nation about the discovery of the
missiles, demanded that the Soviet Union remove the missiles, and declared the
waters around Cuba a quarantine zone.
several tense days Soviet vessels en route to Cuba avoided the quarantine zone,
while Khrushchev and Kennedy discussed the issue through diplomatic channels.Khrushchev, realizing his weak military position, sent one of two
messages to Kennedy in which he agreed to remove the missiles.The following day, before the United States could respond to the first
note a second was sent by Khrushchev to try and negotiate terms.Kennedy responded to the first message and an agreement was met for the
Soviet missiles to be dismantled and removed from Cuba.In return Kennedy secretly promised not to invade Cuba and to remove
older missiles from Turkey.This was perhaps Kennedy’s greatest moment as president.Many feel that because of Kennedy’s aggression that perhaps WWIII was
November 22, 1963, President and Mrs. Kennedy were in Dallas, Texas, trying to
win support in a state that Kennedy had barely carried in 1960.On his way to a luncheon in Dallas, Kennedy and his wife sat in an open
convertible at the head of a motorcade.Lyndon Johnson was two cars behind the president, and Texas Governor John
B. Connally and his wife were sitting with the Kennedy’s.As the motorcade approached an underpass, two shots were fired, one
bullet passed through the president’s neck and struck Governor Connally in the
back, with the other bullet striking the president in the head.The car sped to nearby Parkland Hospital where at 1:00 PM Kennedy was
than two hours after the shooting, aboard the presidential plane at the Dallas
airport, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United
States.The bullets that killed Kennedy were fired from a sixth-story window of a
nearby warehouse.That afternoon, Lee Harvey Oswald, was arrested in a Dallas movie theater
and charged with murder.Two days later, as the suspect was being transferred from one jail to
another, Jack Ruby sprang out from a group of reporters and as millions watched
on television, fired a revolver into Oswald’s left side.Oswald died in the same hospital to which the President had been taken.
November 24, the body of President Kennedy was carried on a horse-drawn carriage
from the White House to the Rotunda of the Capitol.Hundreds of thousands of people filed past the coffin of the slain
president.A state funeral was held the next day where "representatives of 92
nations attended."7It has been estimated that as many as "1 million people"8 lined
the streets of Washington as the funeral procession made its way slowly to
Arlington National Cemetery.The grave was marked by an eternal flame lighted by his wife and
brothers.Five days after the funeral, President Johnson appointed Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court Earl Warren chairman of a committee to investigate Kennedy’s
death.The findings of the commission were announced on September 27, 1964,
which stated that investigators had found "no evidence of conspiracy in the
assassination."9Their report concluded that "the shots which killed President
Kennedy were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald."